by Joe Dimino & David Basse
Jazz Musicians Around the World on COVID-19
People’s lives have been radically rearranged since mid-March by COVID-19. In the world of jazz, the absence of live music adds up to an incalculable list of missed opportunities. Even so, jazz folks seem to remain fairly sunny in spite of the trials. Many have developed a tenacious attitude towards adversity.
This presented an opportunity for JAM Magazine’s, Joe Dimino to reach out to musicians all over the world and get their collective gauge on this - very surreal David Lynch type film set - we all seem to be attempting to comprehend.
“I’m waiting for Lynch to run up the street,” said Dimino, “and say ‘Cut, that’s a wrap!’”
Dimino floated the idea - that when jazz musicians are thrown into situations of uncertainty - they are usually able to create something beautiful out of it.
Dimino thought; these are the artists made for this time in history.
“I conducted a hundred interviews a month, April through July,” said Dimino, “ and I learned a great many things that continue to remind me - why I decided to cover jazz.”
He continued, “Jazz musicians are some of the finest humans on the planet. They are grounded, humble and greatly-talented artists. They always find a way to survive and even thrive during adversity.”
“Here is what I discovered,” said Dimino, “I’ll share the highlights with hopes for live music to return soon.”
Ahmed Abdullah, Jazz Trumpeter - March 21, 2020 - Sun Ra Arkestra
"The music that we play is about dealing with the spiritual void that is on this planet right now. I don't think we would be experiencing what we are going through . . . if there was not a void. I think music and the arts are the way to address the void."
Tom Wright, Jazz Saxophonist - March 25, 2020 - South Carolina
"I just hope people realize how important live music is now that it's gone. Sometimes we see music as ancillary. Something (music) that is not an important part of our lives. Then, when we don't have it, we realize how important it really is in our lives."
Jazz musicians are suited to coronavirus-improvisation.
Kandace Springs, Jazz Vocalist, Pianist - March 26, 2020
"This just makes you appreciate everything. Even freakin' toilet paper at this point. You know, to just appreciate the arts. Artists cannot even come out and sing right now - but folks appreciate recordings of them. You can pursue what you may have had on the shelf. Like for me, it's been painting and drawing."
Jason Palmer, Jazz Trumpeter - March 27, 2020
"My hope is that people appreciate the artform and support it even more than they did before the pandemic hit. Just to realize the importance of this music and all music. How arts and cultural events bring us all together. Not only physically, but in terms of energy. I think one of the most important things we get from this music is the power and the energy of improvisation. What that does in terms of sound. I really think sound can be a healing force."
Roberto Magris, Jazz Pianist - March 29, 2020 - Italy
"I think we will focus more on spiritual matters. Think more about things on a human level instead of being worried about money, working and running around. I also think it's very important that we remember that we are a community. We are all brothers and sisters in the same world."
Alex Goodman, Guitarist - March 27, 2020 - Toronto, New York City
"When we do return to those public places of performance, I hope people appreciate it more. They are so powerful. Hopefully things bring to the public consciousness the situation of the modern musician. You can see that people are going out of their way to support musicians and I think that's really good."
Delfeayo Marsalis, Jazz Trombonist - March 31, 2020
"We need something joyous and uplifting. Especially now. It's a tough time for everybody. We want everyone to know that everything is going to be alright. "
Rob Luft, Jazz Guitarist, Arranger & Composer - March 31, 2020 – London
"I had my first two gigs scheduled in New York City for the 12th and 13th of March and unfortunately due to the closure of Broadway and The Metropolitan Opera House, the gig literally got cancelled in sound check.”
Greg Spero, Jazz Pianist - April 1, 2020 - Spirit Fingers
"I think the real underlying question is how is our landscape going to be transformed when (is over). When people start going to shows again, how are people going to recognize what is different than what it was like when they went before. Why is it unique and what did we take for granted? Right now, we are trying to connect via the internet and it's amazing."
Theo Hill, Jazz Pianist - April 15, 2020 - New York, Costa Rica
"As jazz musicians, when this thing does come back around and when we can start opening up these borders, I think it's going to be the jazz musicians who are going to embrace and express the full range of emotions of what is happening in our society now. I don't think it's going to be so much the rap musicians or others in popular music. I think there's going to be a huge explosion of material. People are going to be putting out many records. They already are."
Al Di Meola, Jazz Guitarist - April 16, 2020
"We are going to have a greater appreciation for life. We made it through an unbelievable storm. Probably similar to what people have gone through like people that have overcome a horrible thing like cancer or just making it through a health nightmare. We are all going to be celebrating that together throughout the whole world when it ends."
Joe Lovano, Jazz Saxophonist - April 17, 2020
"This is a defining moment for the whole planet, man. There is going to be a lot of soul searching and hopefully we're going to come out of this with a deeper appreciation for everybody and maybe not such a commercial-minded world. Hopefully there will be some spiritual things that come out of all of this."
Noah Preminger, Jazz Saxophonist - April 19, 2020
"I think everyone is going to be different when this is over. Some people will appreciate live music more and some people will realize that they don't need live music."
Don’t ask a musician how healthy jazz is - the number of shows cancelled (this year) is staggering.
Diane Schurr, Jazz Pianist & Vocalist - April 23, 2020
"I was placed in an incubator shortly after my birth. I was there for six weeks. My blindness was caused because of the oxygen content of that incubator. It was much too high. What this meant was that I was not touched and there was no bonding. I'm sure I was fed from a baby bottle. I was pretty much alone for those first six weeks. My mom didn't stay at the hospital. She would go home. In a way, even then in the grand design of it all, I may have been getting prepared for such a moment as we are going through right now."
E.E. Pointer, Trumpeter - April 27, 2020 - River Cow Orchestra - Kansas City
"People tended to be very comfortable if they could put things in certain little pockets of knowledge and put things in cubby holes. Some creative art is not going to fit in any of those. I hope that when people go out and start listening to live music again that they appreciate it for what it is. There are so many wonderful players in Kansas City that they will be able to hear. These musicians are going to want to get and go crazy doing stuff."
Daniel Bennett, Jazz Saxophonist - April 28, 2020 – New York City
"There is no reason to be afraid. I am probably the only person that has said that. If you are afflicted with this, you have every right to complain. If you don't, then it's your job to carry on the work of society. We are not on pause. The human spirit is going to beat this whole thing. People will be surprised. I know it's going to take a while, but there is no way you can reverse these innate feelings we have towards beauty and art. It is all still there. The music community is so tight right now. It is unbreakable. I cannot keep up with all the house concerts that are popping up on my Facebook every three seconds. I know it's not the same, but it's gonna get us through this."
Jackie Myers, Jazz Pianist - April 29, 2020 - Kansas City
"One thing this crisis has put into perspective is how lucky I am to be able to make music. I mean, I had an album I was able to give. Most people never even get to make an album. I don't know how many albums I have made up to this point, but it's been a lot. Then a crisis hit, and I had a choice. Should I put this music out or should I wait? I couldn't tour with it. It wasn't about what I couldn't do. It was like I had something I could do, and it was amazing."
One musician spoke the truth about the world and the state of the business.
Theo Croker, Jazz Trumpeter, Composer, Producer & Vocalist - April 30, 2020
"I'm going to be completely honest with you. I did not enter the pandemic starving creatively and I'm not starving creatively now. My whole life is about living creatively. I'm actually enjoying the fact that I am able to stop all the running around and touring like crazy. The artificial urgency that has been imposed upon everyone through the speed of technology and communication. I have been really enjoying the fact that not only have I stopped, but rest of the world has been forced to stop as well."
John Bailey, Veteran Jazz Trumpeter - May 2, 2020
"The strangest thing to try to overcome is that it has been over 40 years since I have gone six weeks without a live interaction with other musicians. One has to reconcile that and overcome it and compensate for it in other ways. It's not something I'm pleased about, but we are jazz musicians and historically we have to be creative and resourceful."
Warren Wolf, Jazz Vibraphonist - May 13, 2020
"The one negative thing that musicians across the board (miss,) is that we all miss playing together and having that audience. There is nothing else like being on stage and performing in front of a live audience. Nothing."
Wayne Escoffery, Jazz Saxophonist - May 15, 2020
"For better or for worse, I think a lot of the albums that are coming out right now during this time are going to have a special place in history."
Jill Barber, Jazz Vocalist - May 18, 2020 - Canada
"This is kind of an unusually good time to be releasing an album. People's music listening habits are up and people need music more than ever. People have more time to listen to full albums. That's a cool thing. We are seeing more than ever now that we need the arts in our lives. Just for our quality of life and to help us get through the day. Whatever it is. We need art."
It had to be said, we didn’t have to print it.
Eddie Moore, Jazz Pianist - May 22, 2020 - Kansas City
"I love performing, but there's a big part of me now that says I don't have to say 'yes' to this or if I can be myself tonight or do they want me to be someone else. You can now present to your audience with no middle man. You can just be straight up right now. It's a good feeling. When we get back to it, I hope we see more jazz owned venues that cater to the freedom of expression. Really foster that environment. I hope that this is a fresh beginning and artists can get more on the business end and create opportunities for other artists to be free."
David Billingsley, Keyboardist, Composer, Educator - May 26, 2020 – Minneapolis
"I think this will all give us a deeper appreciation for life and our blessings. What life has been and what we have. I think right now more than ever we realize that music is essential. We miss it and can't' wait to get back out into the concert halls and music festivals."
Arturo O’Farrill, Jazz Pianist, Composer, Educator - June 4, 2020 - Los Angeles
"The pandemic was obviously the first of things that ail our society. It's scary and depressing. It's especially scary to see what it does to young people. I'm not a kid, but when you are 20 or 25 and you watch your entire understanding of life disappear, that really messes with your mind. My heart really goes out to them. I have been trying to help them and telling them all to seek help."
Herman Mehari, Jazz Trumpeter - June 9, 2020 - Kansas City, Paris
"There's a certain mentality and mindset that it puts musicians into. Not just musicians, right. People all over the world. As musicians, it's interesting to see what the result of that is. This is something that is basically affecting the whole world. We all have this shared experience."
Rudresh Mahanthappa, Jazz Saxophonist - June 10, 2020 – New York City
"I hope we stop taking each other for granted. I think there are artists that take their audience for granted. There are also audiences that think live music is something that they own. I'm hoping that more people will see this as a journey we take together. I have always been one to support the idea that when I go play a show, it's not that I'm just playing for you. We are going on a journey together."